Writing the Impossible

Quote of the Day:
"There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people ... mystery writers and serial killers. I'm the kind that pays better."
-Richard Castle

Where do you get inspiration?

For me, the situation usually goes something like this: I watch a dramatic movie, I go to bed, and I stay up until well after midnight thinking about how much I wish I could go out and trade international secrets like it's everyday business. I make up stories in my head about how awesome things would be if this ... if that ... and then this would happen ... and this ...

When I realize that none of it is actually going to happen, that's where inspiration begins. That's where there's room for a story, because the art of writing fiction is thinking of an impossible event and then making your reader believe it could be possible.

I once read a fictional story called The Thirty-Nine Steps about a man who 'accidentally' finds himself caught up in an international power struggle that eventually leads to world war - a situation unlikely to happen to most of us. By the time he had driven off cliffs, nearly blown himself up  more than once, and run all over the countryside being chased by an elderly golfer, I was firmly convinced that the story was real. (Who says a golf club isn't a weapon?) Viewed objectively, the story is impossible. Viewed within the context of the story and the writer's casual style, the story isn't just possible - it's probable.

The next question is obvious - how do you make your reader believe in the impossible? This author (John Buchan) chose to do it mainly through his writing style, which makes the reader feel like he's participating in the story right alongside the main character. It's informal, clear, and suspenseful. The dialogue proceeds quickly, just like it would in real life. The scenery is described accurately without adding too much unnecessary information. The characters are all portrayed as real people, with weaknesses to overcome and strengths to compensate.

If you think about it, that's really all there is to writing a novel: think of something impossible, then think of how to make it possible.

What if you were being chased by a half-insane golfer who wanted to plunge the entire world into war?